And as hurricanes go, Katrina was a bad blow.
Much will have to be considered in the weeks and months ahead. For years, the natural coastal defenses along the Gulf of Mexico have been whittled down by development and both the diversion and containment of natural water systems by dams and levees.
Nature, by contrast, knows best how to match its own destructive manifestations. Barrier islands, sand dunes, salt-water marshes and other wetlands once defended a now devastated coastline and many planners believe that they must do so again.
In the meantime, the nation must address the human and economic toll of a storm that will go down as one of the most destructive in recorded history.
As always in situations like this there are moments of despair, such as when people are killed or lose their homes or, as has been the sadly case in some areas, resort to looting.
But to counter the bad news there is, as always, twists to the tale for which we give thanks.
A couple of shining examples appear in the Echo’s report on Katrina. New Orleans bar owner Jim Monaghan’s plan to feed his neighbors for free is not going to turn back the tide of disaster.
But it will be one act among many that will jumpstart the long process of recovery.
And the Ancient Order of Hibernians will be just one of numerous organizations working to alleviate immediate suffering and distress.
The worst of times, be they natural, man made, or a combination of both, still manage to bring forth the best in people.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will be no exception.